You have to learn the technical terms, of course. "Frisky," for example, means (in the vulgar tongue) uncontrollable; "companionable" means you can't get him out of the shower when you're soaped up, etc.
I refer of course to the Welsh Terrier or Welsh Terror as he is commonly known. For years I have let myself drift among hounds, to the point I am by now a hound person. I rather understand hounds, their great strengths and minor faults, but it has been nigh on to 40 years since I had a terrier in the house and, to be plain, I had forgot what they are.
Everybody knows the Irish Terrier fights all the time, along with the Shropshires, Kerry Blues and so forth, but for some reason I imagined the Welsh Terrier sang hymns in chapel and (for no dog is perfect) mined the garden.
What a surprise to discover, after all these years, that terriers have not slowed down with the passing of time. Max is, if anything, even more athletic (climbs walls) than old Jack was.
This contrasts with the basset hound, who is easily baffled by a six-inch barrier or, come to think of it, almost anything else. The resident hound, Lucy, named for old Luke of blessed memory, is astonished when Max leaps over her back a la tennis ball but, in the manner of fine hounds, takes life as it comes and marvels in silence. She introduced the new terrier to the game of Rawhide in which each mutt seizes an end of a 20-inch strip of rawhide in the jaws, then dashes at 42 miles an hour up the 120-foot walk to the garbage can, like two noble steeds cross-axled to some invisible chariot.
When tired, they each gnaw an end of the rawhide. The shorter it gets the closer the tandem is, so that now their jaws touch and the rest of the animals sort of spill over, but they still race up and down to announce the cavalry is at hand.
Barbara Wodehouse, in a book about dog problems--owner problems, she would say--speaks of seizing the young dog at each side of the neck as he sits up facing you and looking into his eyes and saying NO. You do this on those little occasions that arise every 12 minutes for the first year.
This never worked very well on the hound, who at least has plenty of material there to seize, but who always had tremendous problems sitting up, tending to list and much given to wails when losing balance. Fortunately, as the years passed, the hound more or less learned what was more or less demanded, with a few compromises.
A terrier, on the other hand, does not have much to grab hold of at each side of the neck, and when you peer into Max's eyes as Wodehouse instructs, he starts licking your face at 149 strokes per minute, trembling with joy and not much interested in such chitchat as NO. At this point you put on the choke collar (Wodehouse goes on) and give a sharp jerk, which astonishes but does not hurt the young dog.
All dogs I have ever known, however, begin to bounce up and down when the collar and lead come off the kitchen door. This means walkie (as Wodehouse says for walk, an asinine baby-ism, but then who am I to argue with Madame Dog herself, especially as she can show you a beautifully trained set of paws any day).
My wife (it's her dog) is fortunate in possessing the finest Welsh Terrier of the Western world, she has explained to me. She solved the shower problem after a few tries by waiting till Max seemed occupied with his blanket (which he harries) then she edges toward the bathroom, dashes in and slams the door.
Everybody remember Tujay's Jubilee? Max's grandsire. Spit and image.
You may learn from dogs, and especially from dog books, that every virtue has its companion vice. "Alert" means yap or leap, alternately or simultaneously. "Friendly" means hyperactive. "Brave" means no peace for any other animal weighing less than 400 pounds. "Vigorous" means you probably should not have got a terrier if you're over 24.
It would be petty to complain that Max (as distinct from all the basset hounds I have known) ripped the upholstery off a large yellow chair and ate the sleeve out of our daughter's prize shopping trophy, a $65 blouse she acquired for $20 and had not yet worn. Max swallowed the cloth, said to be 100 percent cotton, and a young Mr. Miller of Falls Church said that was good, since his dachshund ate a polyester sock, I think it was a sock, in any case a substantial thing, and had to be operated on.
"Gentle" means the terrier can make you feel like an absolute beast, whenever he turns the Gentle button on. "Almost psychic" means he is one step ahead of you.
Well, gee (as I told Wodehouse once when I met her and she said it's the dog owner, of course, who needs to be trained even more than the dog), that wouldn't take much.